Piloting in-flight airline fees right back down to earth.

Did you hear about the Canadian music dude whose guitar was smashed by some over-zealous baggage handlers last summer? And the airline they work for that refused to pay for the $1,200 repair? And then lost the young musician’s baggage – again – during a later flight? These days, flying the friendly skies can make for some unfriendly customer service stories – not to mention additional hits on your wallet. Once-free features like checking a bag (or having one lost), getting a snack, even leg room, now come at an extra price. Why, we’ve even heard one airline was thinking about a “premium” charge to hit the potty. Um, what?

We can’t guarantee tender loving luggage handlers, short bathroom lines or in-flight movies NOT called The Pink Panther 2, but we have a few ideas on ways to avoid unwelcome fee surprises at the ticket counter. First, Smarter Travel has put together this handy guide to airline fees to keep your in-flight costs from soaring.

We say pack less and cram all you can into fewer luggage pieces that you have to check. Better yet, go carry-on only and ship boxes to your destination ahead of time. Snacks? Go all movie theater on the airlines. No one REALLY wants to spend $6 for a bag of lousy popcorn. And no one really wants to pay $?? for a tiny bag of airplane nuts. That’s nuts. We’re not condoning “smuggling” but a well-stashed bag of licorice or cheese thingies in your carry-on will taste pretty good come about 2 hours in flight. Oh, and eat a big meal before you fly. Sometimes the obvious stuff isn’t so much.

Let’s hear from you, travel-savvy Savers. How are you saving dollars when hitting the airways?

  • http://twitter.com/geminipinai Liza

    Wear layers so that you don’t have to pay for a blanket. Also, those small inflatable pillows are useful for naps and can easily be packed away for the next trip. Hard to believe that some airlines charge for pillows/blankets, but they do!

  • Tammy

    I’m all about packing granola bars in my carry-on! I fly for work and I get reinbursed for meals at the airport, but not in-flight. Those granola bars are cheap and way better than those $7 box snacks you get on the plane!

    I also grab a bottle of water (or stop at a bar for a cold one) in the terminal before getting on the plane so I’m not tempted to spend upwards of 7 bucks on the wine/beer/etc.

  • Crispy

    Save money on flying? Simple…fly for free! Get a major airline credit card, charge everything you possible can on it, and pay it off every month. You can usually find an application that gives 25, 35, or even 50,000 free miles just for signing up. That’s a free flight to Europe right there! Troll the airline sites for bonus points. 5000 miles for a weekend car rental. 1000 bonus miles for a hotel stay. 5, 7, 8, 10x points for shopping through their online links. Double miles for this, triple for that. Rack ‘em up. When looking for a free flight, shop well in advance and get a more direct flight, rather than via Timbuktu. Fly in low season, it costs less miles. Fly during the week, it costs less too. Always fly on the milesaver program, don’t give them double the miles, ever. Take a 50 cent sleeping pill on long flights, it’s better than a sleepless first class seat, any day of the week.

    One other thing…the taxes on the free ticket are significantly lower on the free flight than on a paid one. There’s anywhere from $20 to over $100, right there. Be frugal, play the game, and you’ll come out a winner. I haven’t paid for a flight, to anywhere, in over 10 years. Personally, I prefer American over Delta, they seem to have consistently more award availability. Also, American also has “reduced mileage awards” to specific destinations, updated quarterly, that are even cheaper.


    Northwest used to be good, but now that they’ve been taken over by Delta this new 3-tiered system is BS. Continental isn’t a bad choice either, but I haven’t used them for a while, so I can’t say if or how they’ve changed over the years. Citibank’s AA Mastercard and US Bank’s Flexperks Visa are the 2 to go with, in my opinion.

    Happy trails!

  • Crispy

    An addition to the above post…the only time to pay for a ticket is for a short-haul flight. Pay for a $99 ticket, rather than using 25,000 miles. You’ll not only collect miles on that flight, but you’ll save those miles for a long distance flight, say from New York to LA which is more like a $400 flight.